Fishing for pompano — a tasty treat
When cruising along and chrome fish start jumping out of the water in your wake, you’ve just run over or startled a school of pompano, one of Florida’s tastiest fish. Slow the boat and quietly circle back, then wind drift or lightly use the trolling motor while fan casting the area with light tackle and small jigs.
Good places to prospect if they aren’t giving away their location by flying out of the water, is in and around the passes or inlets. The sandy shoals at the entrances to passes, channel edges and edges of sandbars are all good bets. Sebastian Inlet is a top East Coast pomp spot where pier anglers score heavily.
Another dependable spot is around bridge pilings and rubble with considerable current flow. Try vertical jigging.
Anglers around Coca Beach fish the surf using the pompano’s favorite snack, the sand flea. Surf jockeys first spend time at the water’s edge digging for sand fleas before casting.
Pomp anglers use small hair/bristle jigs with the dressing trimmed even with the bend in the hook. Dress these jigs with small pieces of shrimp and hop retrieve it back along the bottom deliberately kicking up sand and mud.
One of the best lite tackle casting jigs for prospecting flats, the surf and shoals is the little “goofy jig” rig which is retrieved along the bottom with the hook riding upwards reducing snags.
Most pomp anglers use a variety of jig colors and even double jig set-ups. Most are brightly colored. I’ve had the best luck using yellows and fluorescent yellows and then pink in more turbid water.
This is a typically smallish fish weighing a pound or two with a big one weighing in at 5 pounds, so light or ultra-lite spinning tackle is best suited for this game. Fly anglers also enjoy these fish on 6 wt. rods or lighter, or a 7 or 8 on windier days. It doesn’t take long for the newbie fly rodder to learn that in Florida just the thought of picking up the long rod automatically makes the wind blow harder. Actually putting the rod in the boat is guaranteed to suddenly increase wind speed wherever you are.
For spinning, 6 to 10-pound braided line and a 36-inch or longer leader of 10 to 20-pound fluorocarbon is a good start. Stay away from hardware, especially swivels, as these fish are tackle shy and water around the passes is often very clear.
Florida’s pompano season is open year-round with a daily recreational bag limit of 6 per harvester.
Keeper fish have to meet the 11-inch fork length minimum. Although this chrome mini-permit doesn’t get into double digit weight territory, it’s still an amazing fighter on lite tackle.
The IGFA All Tackle World Record and Florida State record 8-pound, 4-ounce pomp was caught in St. Joe Bay in 1999. No fly world record is mentioned.
The pompano, a hard fighting member of the jack family, is also one of the best tasting fishes you’ll ever put on a plate. Thick, and meaty, firm textured, sweet tasting flesh.
With continued warm winters, migrating tarpon seem to arrive earlier each year with reports of fish in our area often starting in early April. If you can’t wait then head upriver and fish the warmer waters of the Caloosahatchee around the power plant on up to the locks for resident fish. Acquiring local knowledge or hiring a guide that specializes in this area is a good bet for first-timers.
A surer bet for early season tarpon is to intercept them in the Keys around the bridges and channels where they gather en mass. Soon after, follow them north and take another shot as they pass through the Ten Thousand Islands area later in the month before showing up off Fort Myers Beach and finally off Sanibel’s Knapp’s Point and soon after, into Boca Grande Pass.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. You can contact him at 239-282-9434 or email@example.com.